How to Celebrate Mother’s Day if Your Mom Has Passed

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on May 1, 2016. Enjoy!

The second Sunday in May is probably one of the least favorite days of the year for those of us whose moms are no longer with us. After suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years, my mom died in early 2001. Sixteen Mother’s Days later, it’s still a difficult time for me.

“Acknowledge that you are sad and miss your mother,” advises Dr. Gail Saltz, a New York-based psychiatrist, on “There’s no need to pretend it is not a melancholy time for you. Nearly everyone whose mother is absent feels bereft.”

If your mom has passed, there’s really no reason why you can’t still honor her on Mother’s Day. There’s an old saying: “Grief is just love with nowhere to go.” Here are some ways you can celebrate your mom’s memory and give that love somewhere to go.

Help her favorite worthy cause

Did your mom love animals? You can spend the day volunteering at your local shelter. Did she enjoy helping those less fortunate? Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. Look up your mom’s favorite cause on a website like or and see what you can do to help. Your mom’s favorite charities will also welcome cash donations in her memory.

Plant a tree or garden in her memory

If you have a big enough yard, plant your mom’s favorite tree, or on a smaller scale, plant her favorite flowers or vegetables. If you live in an apartment, buy her favorite houseplant. You can also have a tree planted in the forest in memory of your mother by nonprofits like the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Share photos and memories

Share your favorite photos and memories of your mom with your family and friends, or post them on social media. Ask those who knew her to share their own memories and photos with you.

Cook your favorite childhood meal

If your mom made a special dish you loved as a kid, go ahead and prepare it for yourself, or share it – and your memories of it – with your family and friends. (Unless you’re a mom yourself, you might want to stay away from restaurants on Mother’s Day, since seeing all those people dining with their moms can be a little depressing.)

Call family members

Even if it’s been eons since you’ve been in touch, call close and distant family members and talk about your mom.

Spend the day enjoying nature

Go to the beach, take a hike along a scenic trail, visit a park or otherwise spend time outdoors.

“Being in nature, one becomes aware of the infinite circle of life,” writes Kirsti A. Dyer, M.D., a fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement from the Association for Death Education and Counseling. “There is evidence of decay, destruction and death; there are also examples of rejuvenation, restoration, and renewal.”

Write a letter to your mom

Put down in writing what’s been going on in your life and how much you miss her. You can throw it away, burn it, or keep it and re-read on Mother’s Day next year.

In her groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying,” in which she introduced the five stages of grief, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about a woman who found it comforting not only to write a letter to her mom, but to also write one to herself “from” her mom, using her non-dominant hand.

Most importantly, treat yourself well

If you’d prefer to spend Mother’s Day crying, or just treating it like any other day, go right ahead and do it. Or spend the day pampering yourself and doing the things you love to do.

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with Mother’s Day, but one thing is certain: Our dearly departed moms would want us to be happy and do whatever’s best for us.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Margie F
Margie FOURIE2 months ago

Love the idea of cooking a childhood meal.

Carl R
Carl R3 months ago


Carl R
Carl R4 months ago


william M
william Miller4 months ago


Marija M
Marija M4 months ago


ERIKA S4 months ago

thank you for sharing

LF F4 months ago

(correction: Mom would have been ever so proud)

LF F4 months ago

How about helping a young struggling mother in your mother's honor? Since you can't express your love for your lost loved one. Use that love and compassion towards a living human in here and now. I know Mom would be ever so proud.

Patricia Harris
Patricia Harris4 months ago

Marty P, oh... I never really looked at it that way. If anything ever happened to my Mother, I certainly wouldn't want to forget about her. Not after all the great times we've shared together.

Jetana A
Jetana A4 months ago

I was a little tender yesterday, and your article was helpful. Thanks!